U.S. Embassy Colombo, together with the Regional Center for Strategic Studies (RCSS) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), brought together scholars from across the Indo-Pacific on Monday, October 16 for the conference “Ocean Security: South Asia and the Indian Ocean.” The conference hosted international researchers specializing in the Indian Ocean, covering areas such as environmental security, regional cooperation, governance, peacebuilding, blue economy, trade, and ocean security research.

During her opening remarks U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung applauded the network of South Asian scholars focused on the Indian Ocean. Highlighting Sri Lanka’s pivotal role in the region’s blue economy, she said, “Investment in sustainable blue economies is a force multiplier, spurring economic development and demonstrating how environmental protection and economic growth are mutually reinforcing. The United States is committed to ensuring a prosperous blue economy for Sri Lanka and other nations across the Indo-Pacific.  Since the launch of the Indo-Pacific Strategy in 2022, the U.S. government has announced the provision of over $2 billion in foreign assistance in the region dedicated to Indo-Pacific priorities.”  

Ambassador Chung also spoke on the strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Sri Lanka, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, noting that “the United States recognizes Sri Lanka’s right to assert its own aspirations and objectives, to be recognized as an equal on the world stage, and to make decisions aligned with its values and the needs and interests of its people.  Indeed, those principles help to guide our bilateral relationship.”  

U.S. Embassy Shines Spotlight on South Asia and the Indian Ocean at Colombo's Ocean Security Summit
U.S. Ambassador Julie Chung addressing the conference Ocean Security: South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Delivering the keynote address, Nilanthi Samaranayake, a visiting expert from the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., said, “The Indian Ocean derives its importance from its economics, which creates converging goals. The region effectively serves as a highway, connecting the bustling waters of the Pacific through the Malacca Strait and across to the Middle East and African Straits of Hormuz and Babel-Mandeb and Mozambique Channel. The Indian Ocean sees significant traffic of hydrocarbons, containers, and bulk cargo. Due to the economic significance of this region, countries share a common interest in keeping the sea lanes open and safe.” 

Conference participants also included representatives from diplomatic missions across the Indo Pacific, Sri Lankan government officials, scholars, and members of the Sri Lankan military.